November 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2008
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
A report on resolution 1701 is expected in November. But it is unclear whether the Council intends to meet to discuss it (it will have heard a briefing by Special Envoy for implementation of resolution 1559 Terje Rød-Larsen on 30 October). Unless the report proposes new ideas on disarmament or the Sheb’a Farms issue, or there are major new developments on the ground, consultations on the 1701 report are unlikely given the desire of the Costa Rican presidency to hold all discussions in public meetings.

Key Recent Developments
On 16 October the latest report report on implementation of resolution 1559 was submitted to the Council. The Secretary-General welcomed positive developments including the election of a new Lebanese president in May, the launch of a national dialogue aimed at developing a national defense strategy, and talks between Lebanon and Syria to establish diplomatic relations. The report, however, emphasised that many elements of resolution 1559 remained to be implemented. It noted, in particular, that:

  • several security incidents targeting the Lebanese Armed Forces have highlighted the threat posed by the presence of militias and the apparent strengthening of extremist elements and foreign fighters around Tripoli is also worrying;
  • there has been no progress toward delineating the border between Syria and Lebanon;
  • the Syrian-Lebanese border remains porous and several states expressed concern at the continuing flow of weapons and fighters;
  • Israeli overflights have continued to violate Lebanese airspace;
  • Israel still occupies the village of Ghajar in south Lebanon;
  • there has been no progress toward disarming militias—this should occur within the context of an inclusive political process with the support of Lebanon’s neighbours;
  • security incidents in the Palestinian refugee camp Ein al-Hilweh have continued; and
  • competition among Lebanese political parties ahead of the next parliamentary elections, combined with the proliferation of weapons and armed groups inside Lebanon, may lead to more insecurity.

A positive development was the signing by the Syrian and Lebanese foreign ministers on 15 October of a memorandum establishing diplomatic relations.

On 8 October the UN appealed for $40 million in emergency aid for 30,000 Palestinian refugees uprooted from the Nahr el-Bared camp after clashes with the Lebanese army last year. So far only the US has made a pledge of $4.3 million. On 6 October the US also agreed to provide $63 million in military assistance to the Lebanese army.

Another positive development was the adoption on 30 September of a new electoral law, in accordance with the Doha agreement, for the May 2009 legislative elections.

Attacks against the Lebanese army have increased, particularly in northern Lebanon. The latest occurred on 29 September in Tripoli when six were killed, including four soldiers. The Council issued a press statement strongly condemning the attack and reiterating its full support for the Lebanese national dialogue. Following this attack, Syria deployed hundreds of troops on Lebanon’s northern border apparently to reinforce border control and because it considers such attacks as a potential threat. This military build-up seemed to raise some American and Lebanese concerns.

On 27 September a car bomb exploded in Damascus close to a security base killing 17 people. It was the third significant attack in Syria since the beginning of the year although Syria’s security forces had not been a target in recent years. The Council also condemned this attack in a press statement.

On 16 September Lebanese President Michel Suleiman launched the first session of a national dialogue gathering all Lebanese factions to define a national defense strategy. The second round is expected to take place on 5 November. In the meantime, President Suleiman initiated a series of bilateral reconciliation talks among factions—Christians’ rivalries, in particular, have recently resurfaced.

Options
The Council is unlikely to take specific action on the 1559 report. One option following the 1701 report could be a presidential statement:

  • welcoming recent positive developments while urging further progress;
  • affirming support for the national dialogue and reconciliation process;
  • endorsing recommendations of the latest report of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT); and
  • reiterating the need to implement all other elements of resolution 1701, with a particular emphasis on the situation in Ghajar.

Another option, given growing concerns on both sides of the border about security, is for the Council to formally activate a sanctions committee to monitor the cross-border restrictions now in place. Such committees currently exist for all other measures imposed by the Council.

Key Issues
The main outstanding issues relating to resolution 1701 include the following.

Status of Hezbollah: the national dialogue among all Lebanese parties was launched on 16 September by President Suleiman to discuss the reinforcement of state authority over Lebanese territory and a national defense strategy. These have direct implications for Hezbollah’s legitimacy as a militia. Key questions are:

  • the Lebanese government’s authority in southern Lebanon, which is mainly under Hezbollah’s control; and
  • whether and how to incorporate Hezbollah’s weapons and capacities as a militia into a national defense strategy. This discussion will entail, in particular, whether Hezbollah should be allowed to keep its weapons so long as Lebanese land remains occupied (the Israeli-occupied Sheb’a Farms are claimed by Lebanon) as a resistance movement, or whether and how it could be incorporated into the Lebanese army which has primary defense responsibility. While the new Lebanese government reaffirmed the state’s full authority, it also affirmed the right of the resistance to free the Sheb’a Farms.

A major issue for Council members is that the national dialogue, which it supports, may result in an outcome under which Hezbollah retains some military capacity—and therefore Council resolutions 1559 and 1701 may never be fully implemented.

Status of Non-Lebanese Militias: it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify the non-Hezbollah militias currently undertaking attacks on Lebanese soil. Some may have ties to Syria. Some seem to be extremist Sunni groups with loose ties to Al-Qaeda, and others are traditional Palestinian militias. While there is already an agreement, reached in 2006 among Lebanese factions, that Palestinian militias outside refugee camps should be disarmed, there is a sense in Lebanon—and in the Council—that the broader picture can be addressed only in a regional framework, with the participation of Lebanon’s neighbours.

Sheb’a Farms and Ghajar: apparently the Secretary-General has continued bilateral talks with all concerned actors (Syria, Lebanon and Israel). But without progress on the Syrian-Israeli track, a solution to the Sheb’a Farms issue is unlikely. Current political uncertainties in Israel will likely further delay the resumption of Syrian-Israeli talks. A related—and apparently easier—issue is the Israeli presence in Ghajar. Israel has yet to agree with a scheme for withdrawal devised by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Situation in the South: the Lebanese army undertook in September a temporary redeployment from the south to Tripoli because of security concerns there. The 1701 report is likely to address this issue in more detail and the Council will be keen to hear how this has affected UNIFIL.

Cluster Munitions: The UN Mine Coordination Center in South Lebanon said in August that since the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, twenty people had been killed and about 194 maimed by explosions of cluster bombs, but that almost half of the known bombs had been cleared. The civilian accident rate has also considerably dropped thanks to educational measures, but economic repercussions have been important—for instance, the presence of cluster munitions has hampered agricultural activities. Israel’s failure to meet Council demands to provide maps of probable locations of cluster munitions to allow further clearance remains an issue.

Security Situation: a main issue is the increased activity and armed attacks by militias in Lebanon and possible further instability this may entail, especially as legislative elections get closer.

Council Dynamics
France remains a determined supporter of Lebanon, the national dialogue and Council resolutions 1559 and 1701, but it seems less likely to push for Council action at this stage, believing that the Council may have little value to add. The US seems to be somewhat disengaged relative to its past involvement. Many Council members believe that further progress on the 1701 and 1559 processes can now happen only in parallel with regional developments such as peace talks between Israel and Syria. Uncertainties in the future political landscape ahead of elections in the US and Israel seem to reinforce a wait and see approach in the Council.

UN Documents

Selected Resolutions

  • S/RES/1832 (27 August 2008) extended the UNIFIL mandate until 31 August 2009.
  • S/RES/1701 (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel and for a long-term solution, imposed an arms embargo on Lebanon and authorised a reinforcement of UNIFIL.
  • S/RES/1680 (17 May 2006) encouraged Syria to respond positively to the Lebanese request to delineate their common border and to establish full diplomatic relations, and called for further efforts to disarm Hezbollah and to restore the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) urged withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon, disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, extension of the Lebanese government’s control over Lebanese territory, and free and fair presidential elections.

Latest Presidential Statement on Resolution 1559

Latest Presidential Statement on Resolution 1701

Latest Press Statements

  • SC/9463 (1 October 2008) condemned in the strongest terms the 29 September terrorist attack in Tripoli.
  • SC/9460 (27 September 2008) condemned in the strongest terms the 27 September terrorist attack in Damascus.

Latest Reports

  • S/2008/654 (16 October 2008) was the latest 1559 report.
  • S/2008/582 (25 August 2008) was the latest LIBAT report.
  • S/2008/425 (27 June 2008) was the latest 1701 report.

Latest Letter

  • S/2008/627 (22 September 2008) was a letter from Lebanon on Israeli violations of Lebanese territorial integrity from 1 to 14 September.

Other Relevant Facts

Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Resolution 1559

Terje Rød-Larsen (Norway)

Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon

Michael C. Williams (UK)

UNIFIL Force Commander

Major-General Claudio Graziano (Italy)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL

  • Authorised: 15,000 troops
  • Current (31 August 2008): 12,295 military personnel.
  • Troop Contributors: Belgium, China, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Nepal, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Spain, Tanzania and Turkey.

Cost

1 July 2008 – 30 June 2009: $680.93 million (A/C.5/62/30)t

Useful Additional Resource

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